A change in perception
When Rose struggled with her SUD, she didn’t believe she was worth recovery. Stigma within the community made her feel that way.
“I cared about how others thought about me while I was going through it,” she said. “I’d hear people say things like, ‘She’s nothing but a junkie, who cares if she overdoses?’ You’d be surprised at how often we hear community members saying things like that, and we start to believe it.”
“I thought something was morally wrong with me for the longest time, and it solidified my lack of self-worth,” she sighed. “It was painful to be in my own skin.”
Community empathy is necessary to ensure struggling individuals can access resources before their illness kills them first. People aren’t born wanting a life of homelessness and addiction; they stumble upon it trying to find desperate solutions for their immediate problems.
“There is a lack of support because of a lack of understanding,” Rose explained. “I wish more people in our community knew addiction is an illness that occurs in the mind, body and spirit and destroys everything in us as human beings. We need resources to rebuild those things in our life. We need compassion and understanding. Our illness has nothing to do with who we are, but what’s going on inside of us. Recovery is possible.”
The way the community talks about substance use disorders can also change the way those who are struggling look at themselves. There is no benefit in dehumanizing those with SUDs; only fewer opportunities for recovery. Rose felt fortunate to have a strong support system in her family and recovering friends. There was never any judgment. Just support.
“I felt like community members around me were always judging me, but I was lucky to have close ones who treated me like I was sick instead of a horrible person,” she said. “They impacted my life and lifted me up. We need that encouragement for everybody. Most of the time, we don’t see value in the world anymore, and our supporters see value in us first before we see it in ourselves.”
Kristen and her daughter on their Green River trip.
Rose’s life today is different, but in the best way. She’s a homeowner and mother to two beautiful children. She recently got back from a paddle boarding trip down the Green River with her daughter — a memory she’ll cherish forever.
“We have everything we need and most of what we want,” Rose said. “These are accomplishments and moments I never imagined were possible for me.”
Rose’s career also has taken off. She spends her days serving others as a Peer Support Specialist at Providence Recovery in Craig. She finds peace, serenity and wholeness in helping others through what feels like the darkest points in her life.
Her past experiences allow her to make positive impacts on her community today. She hopes her story can allow others to do the same.
“Today, I’m a free person,” she concluded. “I show up to life and participate in it. I experience ultimate happiness, and I don’t let the bad things that happen in my life affect my sobriety anymore. I practice radical acceptance in my life — changing what I can and leaving the rest.”